This coming Sunday, the Explore New England section of Travel will highlight 10 ways to celebrate spring. But we thought that dawn was earlier than most readers would look at the paper, so we did not mention that UMass/Amherst astronomer Judith Young will be leading a sunrise gathering at the university's sunwheel—an array of stones that serves as a solar observatory a la Stonehenge. Dr. Young will be teaching a lesson at sunset, too, but greeting the rising sun on the vernal equinox seems to be a tradition that goes back several thousand years. Things kick off at 6:45 a.m. on Rocky Hill Road in Amherst (near the football stadium). Young will explain the significance of equinoxes and solstices and give some background on other solar calendar sites around the world, including Stonehenge and Callanish in the United Kingdom and Chichen Itza in Mexico. For directions and more information, see www.astro.umass.edu/~young/gatherspring.html.
Photo of 2006 vernal equinox sunrise shadows by Dr. Judith Young.